If Only Life Were As Easy To Refrost As A Cake

by admin on April 4, 2013

This is the story of a near-disaster with my brother’s wedding cake. Bro and FSIL had decided to serve a selection of mini desserts at their wedding as opposed to the usual multi-tiered cake. However, they wanted a small cake to do the traditional cutting and feeding with. I’m an amateur cake decorator, and they asked me if I would make a cake for them. I was honored but worried; I’m in California, the wedding was in New York, and I’d only have a couple of days to bake and decorate the cake while working around other wedding activities. I also knew I wasn’t going to have a lot of space to work with (I was utilizing a couple of tiny kitchens offered up by kind friends of the HC), so I wasn’t going to be able to roll out fondant or do anything super-fancy. I elected to decorate it fully with buttercream, which I work well with. I devised an art deco design (matching the wedding theme) using a technique called a Frozen Buttercream Transfer for the top, and planned beaded garlands and scrollwork on the sides.

Problem #1: My decorating kit is the size of a toolbox, and airplanes aren’t exactly welcoming about having pointy metal decorating tips on board. I threw a selection of decorating necessities into my suitcase, and ordered some other supplies to be shipped directly to my brother. Those supplies never arrived. I ended up sending my brother out to hunt down some things (as if he didn’t have enough to do) while I took time out from baking to find a kitchenware store and get what else I needed. Otherwise, I improvised.

Problem #2: Since there was no place at my hotel to keep the cake, the best man kindly offered to refrigerate it at his apartment and transport it to the venue the next day. Great! I had bought a nice plastic handled carrier to keep the cake in, so it wouldn’t be a problem for him to carry it.

After the lovely ceremony, a staff member from the venue came up to me during the pre-reception cocktail hour and asked me if I’d made the cake. I said I did, and she told me hesitantly that it had been “damaged”. Seems the best man had brought the cake from Brooklyn to Times Square on the subway. The jostling plus the heat had caused the cake to slide around quite a bit. If I’d had any idea he would be doing that, I’d have happily given him cab fare! (Which I should have done anyway, but unfortunately I didn’t think of it at the time.)

Certain the cake was now a pile of crumbs, I followed the staff member into the venue’s kitchen to assess the damage. Thankfully, all that had happened was the frosting had slid off the sides. The top (which would have been impossible to fix) was mostly unscathed. Also thankfully, I had extra frosting to work with. My boyfriend had run up to our hotel room and gotten my supplies while I inspected the cake. So there I was in this tiny kitchen, with an apron tied over my nice dress, trying to stay out of the way of the staff while they prepared dinner as I fixed the cake as best I could. I barely remember what I did; I think I mostly added more scrollwork to cover up the bumps and dents where I’d had to re-apply the frosting.

I finished the patch job and the cake was taken out to be placed on display. Everyone seemed to like it, but I was secretly glad the room was dimly lit! I even managed to make a joke of it in my toast, saying I hoped any bumps in their marriage were as easily smoothed over as the ones in the cake had been. Bro and SIL loved the cake (and sent a very touching TY note), and that was all that mattered in the end. 0403-13

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Lo April 4, 2013 at 8:20 am

You are an amazing friend. That is all.

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Cat April 4, 2013 at 9:16 am

I would have been a nervous wreck. I have made two wedding cakes and the knowledge that, if it’s dropped or damaged, there’s no running to the local bakery for a replacement is a major stressor.
Given the distance, borrowed work space, and limited time/tools, I think brother would have done better to buy a cake and to allow you to come as a guest, sparing you the time, effort, and potential for a cake disaster.
You love him and wanted to make him happy. I applaud you for your willingness to put yourself out for him. It just seems a lot of bother for a small cake.

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ladycrim April 4, 2013 at 6:24 pm

You make good points, Cat, and I had long talks with my brother and SIL about all of them. But my making the cake meant the world to them, which touched me deeply. Bro and I had had a rough year – our mom passed away just three weeks after the engagement – and he really wanted me as involved as I could be. I also walked him down the aisle along with our dad. I decided it would be worth the hassle and stress. And yes, I’d do it again. (Though I’d give the best man cab fare this time!)

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Cat April 5, 2013 at 9:16 am

That’s the difference between love and obligation. Your gift to your brother was a symbol of the love you feel for him and your desire to do something that he truly wanted. You did not see it as, “Well, he’s my brother so I have to do this.” I would love to have a brother like that-and a sister like you.

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Michelle C. Young April 12, 2013 at 3:11 am

Sounds like it was a situation where the “language of love” that your brother uses is action, and you simply springing for the cake wouldn’t show love the same way as actually putting forth the effort to make it would.

As long as you recognize it as such, and appreciate the meaning, then I’m all for it.

I recently made a stew for my Dad, as a welcome home gift. Dinty Moore makes tastier stew, and cheaper, too, but he appreciated all the effort that went into the meal, and the “love language,” it was.

Yay for your family! They have their priorities straight.

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just4kicks April 4, 2013 at 10:17 am

I agree, what a great friend you are!!! And very happy to hear you received a nice thank you for your considerable work.

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Daisy April 4, 2013 at 12:18 pm

You are definitely a person I’d like to have as a friend! Not freaking out when your lovely cake was damaged is the mark of a true professional!

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ladycrim April 4, 2013 at 5:39 pm

Oh, I was freaking out, believe me! I just managed to keep it in. If the cake had been irreparable, then I’d have probably …. I don’t even know what.

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Michelle C. Young April 12, 2013 at 3:13 am

Gathered the crumbs together, and frosting-glued them into a mini-cake just for cutting? I’m sure you would have come up with something, even if it was only having one servable piece for the couple to share.

And good for you for keeping it in. That is really hard to do.

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Rae April 4, 2013 at 12:50 pm

Glad things worked out for you OP. My mom used to decorate wedding cakes and she would stress out every time.

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ladycrim April 4, 2013 at 5:37 pm

OP here. Believe me, I was freaking out from the moment I was told about the damage until I finally finished fixing it! (This was my third 2wedding cake, the other two being more traditional. I stressed over them, too.)

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Ellen April 4, 2013 at 1:35 pm

What a nice story! You were glad to do something special for your friends, who appreciated it. You were cheerful and flexible in the face of many difficulties. Everyone had reasonable expectations of the vicissitudes of life. And there was yummy cake.

No “Hell” here!

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Marozia April 4, 2013 at 4:34 pm

It sounds like everything worked out well for you. It’s good to have a happy ending to a story. Good luck to your bro and SIL.
And they sent you a thank-you note!! WOW!! Doubly blessed.

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NostalgicGal April 4, 2013 at 9:33 pm

Glad despite everything it worked out in the end. :) and kudos for not losing it when everything else was losing theirs. You are a true friend indeed, too!

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Dominic April 5, 2013 at 7:56 am

There is a great story from Rose Levy Berenbaum in her book “Cake Bible” about preparing a cake and flying with it from New York to, I believe, California. She had the finished cake crated and the airline staff kept it in the galley for her. Unfortunately, they got snowed in at some airport midway, and she begged to have the cake put into a cooler in the airport. The next morning, she went to retrieve the cake, and was told the staff had cut it and served it to passengers because they’d thought it would spoil. She was of course livid, but there was nothing she could do, and the bride and groom were stuck getting a last-minute grocery-store wedding cake. Apparently she later made them another so they could see what their cake should have been. I’ve worked as a professional pastry chef and have done several “long-distance” cakes, but I’ve always baked the layers ahead and then iced and decorated the cake on site. It’s not worth the risk, for me, to try to transport a cake that far, and on the one occasion it wouldn’t have been possible to decorate the cake at the destination, I had to politely decline, and offered instead to make their first anniversary cake.

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NostalgicGal April 5, 2013 at 5:40 pm

I agree with Melinda, below. I would have billed the airline for the cake and told the local newspaper where the airport was where the plane got grounded. I hope Rose got reimbursed.

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Melinda April 5, 2013 at 12:00 pm

She should have billed the airline for the cake….

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June First April 5, 2013 at 12:56 pm

I’m glad it went well, and we didn’t see the usual snide/tantrum-throwing/unreasonable HC in this situation. And I use the word “usual”, meaning the type that end up on E-Hell.

What a happy ending!

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Sansa April 5, 2013 at 1:37 pm

Great story! Glad you were able to do this for your brother and “fix” it so it was usable.

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Angel April 5, 2013 at 10:41 pm

What a beautiful story–glad it all worked out. I wish you would post a picture of the cake! The most I’ve ever done for a friend or family member is make flower arrangements–which is stressful enough, I couldn’t imagine decorating a cake!!

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ladycrim April 15, 2013 at 4:45 pm

I should have thought to send one in when I submitted this story. I don’t have one of the cake post-patch job, but I do have one from when I finished decorating it (and the imperfections are still plenty obvious to my mind, but I was looking for them :-) ).

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missinformation April 15, 2013 at 7:44 pm

Not only are you a gracious person, so are the happy couple. I think that is wonderful, both the commitment and work you put in the cake, and also the thoughtful thank you that was sent. I can see that yourself and your brother were raised by great parents, and so was you sister in law. Sounds like they will have a lifetime of happiness, which they richly deserve!

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